Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is considered to be one of the most painful afflictions known to medical science. Caused by injury to the trigeminal nerve, which supplies the face, TN is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of electrical shock-like pain where the branches of the nerve are distributed - lips, eyes, nose, scalp, forehead, upper jaw and lower jaw. While TN is not fatal, its intense symptoms have given rise to its more common name "suicide disease."
Each TN attack may come on spontaneously (without warning) or be triggered by specific light stimulation (gentle touch or movement), usually in the affected areas of the face. Common triggers include touch, talking, eating, drinking, chewing, tooth brushing, shaving, hair combing, water from a shower and kissing.
While it has been difficult for medical experts to pinpoint the exact reason(s) why certain people suffer from TN, research is beginning to point toward head and/or neck trauma as an underlying cause. According to researchers, trauma to the head, face or upper neck (whiplash) may impinge the trigeminal nerve, which travels from the brainstem to the face. Damage to the nerve may result in the attacks of nerve pain characteristic of TN.
While traditional medical treatment for chronic TN cases involves pain medications and surgery, many patients are looking for alternative approaches. One consideration for TN sufferers is to undergo a cervical (neck) evaluation from a qualified upper cervical chiropractor. If upper cervical vertebrae are displaced through trauma, impingement of the trigeminal nerve can occur. Unless the cervical misalignment is addressed, TN symptoms may persist.
Many TN patients are successfully treated with chiropractic care administered to the upper cervical spine. The number of treatments required per individual varies according to the severity of the cervical injury and symptoms. The first visit to an upper cervical chiropractor usually involves a spinal exam and diagnostic tests, such as cervical X-rays and thermal imaging. From there, the practitioner will determine a care plan. Patients usually notice an improvement in symptoms during the first days or weeks of treatment.
With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has been working with TN patients for the past two years on Maui. For more information, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.